Thursday, August 28, 2003

The Dispute Over The Ten Commandments In Public

"You have exalted above all things, your name and your word." Ps 138:2

Since God values His Name and His Word above all things, so should we. There are many ways to do this. Is a public display of His Name and His Word in the form of a statue a legitimate way?

I think so. All Christians should desire for God's name and word to be exalted in all places. We should support a reverent display of the 10 commandments in public.

The issue for Christians should not be simply whether or not this is constitutional; for the U.S. constitution is not our final authority. Our final authority is God's Word. No knowledge of contemporary jurisprudence is required to know that God desires for the fame of His name to be proclaimed.

However, I do puzzle over all the difficulty in interpreting the U.S. Constitution. What use is a Constitution to its people if it is treated as so unintelligible that it requires a federal judge to decide what's allowed on public display? That only an elite group of judges are qualified to decide how to apply the Constitution to everyday life smacks of pre-Reformational times when the Scriptures could only be interpreted by the Magisterium. Seems to me that many have been fooled into thinking it takes a judge's secret knowledge to understand what is already clear.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Gospel and Fellowship

After 32 worship services, visits with 8 different churches, meals with 6 pastors, and much discussion and prayer we've decided on a church home!

The criteria we used to make the decision matured along the way. Basically the church selection boiled down to two areas: Gospel and Fellowship.

First, how clear is the Gospel message preached and taught? Is this a place where we can come to a fuller understanding of the Gospel?

Second, what is the potential for Fellowship? How likeminded and discipling are they? How deep is the pool of potential friends? This is harder to determine in a short amount of time.

There are many other characteristics of a church worth considering, but it seemed best not to make any of these areas a decisive factor unless there was some egregious problem.

We're ready to move on now; much has been on hold pending our decision: Isaiah's baptism, endorsement of our adoption application, and perhaps communion for Eli.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Confessing Children

About a year ago a friend showed me how to incorporate into our Family Worship memorization of the Lord's Prayer, 10 commandments, and the Apostle's creed in addition to the children's catechism. Now that my little ones have about learned all of these we rotate through them regularly.

This week while reading Operation World, I got the idea to prepare my children for the potential high cost of a confession. For instance Morroco is 10th on the Persecution Index for opposition to Christianity. It's reported that family members will have each other arrested for conversion to Christianity.

So lately, instead of the usual question to my children, "Baileys, what do you believe?", I expand this a little by pretending that we're in Morocco and someone threatens us with imprisonment based on how we answer, "Baileys, what do you believe?". This helps us remember that the Apostle's Creed isn't just a dry recital.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Form and Substance

How much does God care about how His people worship Him? I want to learn more about the importance of "form" in worship. The last several years I've been more involved with the "substance" of worship; mainly the importance of delighting in God. I've been part of a good church that intentionally put substance over form. The worship style was defined by what was likely to cause the worshipper to exalt God. The structure was very simple: call to worship, a series of songs, prayer, and sermon. The sacraments were squeezed in, or done as a separate event, which now seems unfortunate to me.

But after moving here we're spending time in a church that values the form of worship without losing the heart. Here, how we worship God is taken seriously because God is a consuming fire, deserving of reverence and awe, but also worship is delightful because He is our very great reward. The worship is highly structured (compared to my previous experience); but not empty. I leave the service with no doubts that I worshipped God.

What role does liturgy play in making worship acceptable to God? Can worship be God-centered if its focus is on the heart and intentionally not also on form?

Friday, August 15, 2003

A Theology of Grape Juice
Rev Mark Balthrop recently presented the history of how 19th century Americans changed the cup of blessing from wine to a more pietistic substitute. Surprisingly, it's from that we learn:

In 1869 Dr. Thomas Bramwell Welch, a physician and dentist by profession, successfully pasteurizes Concord grape juice to produce an "unfermented sacramental wine" for fellow parishioners at his church in Vineland, N.J., where he is communion steward.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Splinter Groups

The number of sub-groups within the already tiny camp of reformed, covenantal Christians is bewildering. Here's a partial list: homeschool-only group; classical-school group; anti-birth control group; mid-wifery group; paedocommunion group; "cultural relevance" group; "separatist" group; "Auburn Avenue Pastor's Conference" group; "AAPC-is-heretical" group; and on and on.

The folks that make up these groups have high degrees of biblical knowledge and a commendable desire to conform to the Word (at least in their particular emphasis areas). While some of these groups are vehemently opposed to each other, some co-exist as curious friends.

But defining a group's identity solely around relatively minor doctrines troubles me. It seems that the splintering can go on almost forever and we'll eventually end up warring between "Big enders" and "Little enders" as in Gullivar's Travels. The tired cliche "Major on the majors, and minor on the minors" fits. Yes, we should take every thought captive, demolish arguments, and watch our doctrine and life closely. So it's wrong to pretend that differences don't exist, and it's wrong to refuse to wrestle over which position is right. But the satirical tone in the volleys between the opposing groups is damaging to larger issues the people in these groups hold in common. It seems like the admonition in Romans 14:22 to keep it to yourself should be considered for the sake of a larger unity within this tiny fold.

On the positive side, while the number of doctrinal decisions to be made is bewildering to me now, it does drive me back to the Word and with thankfulness to Christ, since I am numbered among those many "who are not wise by human standards."

Friday, August 08, 2003

School's In

Our children's neighborhood pals disappeared today. The last few days they've excitedly told of their new backpacks, clothes, and shoes. Kristin adeptly perceived that our children may feel a little left out. So she planned some special family events today that are only possible because they are homeschooled and not "away-schooled".

Over the next couple of years I want to consider the effect of living on a government installation. Most days I never leave the base. The school, church, restaurants, shops, and houses are all government owned and ran. To host a children's Bible club at "my" house this summer required paperwork and approval from two different base agencies. I'm unsure about my family's rights of free speech, assembly, etc.

Kristin is reading Charlotte Mason and realizes that we do not offer much in terms of craft-training compared to previous times. Glue-sticks and paper-plate faces can only last so long and don't equip the children with anything lasting. Fortunately Kristin's mom taught her to sew and cook and this can be passed on. I, on the other hand, possess no manly crafts beyond the push-mower and a love of books. I am concerned about what level of manliness I can inculcate into my sons. Thankfully, my children are still young enough that even a visit to my office cubicle is inspiring to them. But I know the cubicle is no breeding ground for manliness and some day I want my sons to realize that, too.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Hijacking Fellowship

I'm not sure who had the word "fellowship" first, the church or the world. Since the New Testament era it's been chiefly associated with the church, but the world likes the word, too. For instance, the folks at work are advertising an office-wide lunch as an opportunity for "fellowship".

This weekend I saw clearly the difference between what the world calls fellowship (i.e. socialization) and the church's meaning.

On Saturday we hosted a dinner for several friends we knew in college. It was good to catch up after 10 years of going separate ways; but it wasn't a fulfulling time. Our worldviews and values are so different. God-centered conversation would have been unwelcome and foreign to them.

Contrast that to today. After church we were invited for lunch with a like-minded Christian family. The conversation flowed naturally and consisted of a mutual delight in God and the life in Christ.

I'm thankful that the world's empty fellowship isn't all there is.